The state of Kerala currently considers poker as a game of chance and hence it is illegal based on the Kerala Games Act 1960 which forbids all forms of gambling. However the All-India Gaming Federation (AIGF) is currently working with state government officials to see if the legislature can make an amendment and consider poker as a game of skill.
The AIGF CEO Ronald Landers met last month with the additional chief secretary (Home), Nalini Netto and pointed out that other states in India such as Bengal, Nagaland and Karnataka have legalized the poker industry because they consider it to be a game of skill. Landers also pointed out that Kerala had already passed an amendment in 1976 stating that card games such as Rummy should not be considered gambling but a game of skill and hence poker should also fall under this category.
Kerala is one of the most popular tourist states in India and could generate a significant amount of revenue by legalizing poker rooms and online poker. Gaming analysts estimate that the government would receive up to 15 percent in gaming taxes from the poker industry. Since poker is banned in most Indian states, Kerala could benefit significantly from a regulated poker industry as a number of Indians currently travel to Goa or outside of India in order to take part in poker tournaments.
In a statement to the Sunday Standard, Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF said “If it happens then playing poker, bridge and fantasy games for stakes or real money will be legal and immune from any criminal liability. For a state like Kerala, where tourists flock in large numbers, gaming avenues can be an added attraction”.
Netto stated that her department would have to look into the proposed amendment of 1976 and also work with the Law Department before making any further decisions concerning the matter. However the process to lift the ban on poker and consider it as a game of skill will not be an easy task for the state government as there are a number of opposition forces in other state departments and religious groups.
Kerala’s tourism ministry thrives on marketing the state under the slogan of ‘God’s Own Country’. An official from the tourism ministry who wished to be anonymous stated that Kerala with its natural resources had enough attractions to bring in tourists and did not need to rely on any form of gambling to increase its tourism revenues.